Ah salt. The preserve of olden days, the taste of Bournemouth beach, and a really good mouthwash if you have an ulcer. OK, it probably isn't great for you to eat loads, but the bad label salt has been given over the past five decades should be taken with a big pinch of… scepticism, because new evidence indicates that sugar, not salt, is our mortal enemy.
For those who paid no attention in science class (me too) salt is a mix of sodium and chloride. It regulates our nerve and muscle function, as well as our blood pressure. It's an important component of our diets. Without salt we would die. (Would we die without sugar, I wonder?) Anyway back to the point. 40% of salt is sodium, but sodium can cause your blood to drag in more water and raise your blood pressure.
Our intake of salt comes mainly from processed foods. They just taste better with added salt. But look at the label and you'll find other health-threatening substances on the list like sugar and trans-fats. Are they merely, accomplices or the real culprits behind our failing health and obesity levels?
Salt intake has been studied and experts believe that, wherever they live in the world, people tend to eat the same amount of salt and have done so for decades. More specifically, Americans have eaten an average of 3.5 grams a day between 1957 and 2003. Why might that be? Does it mean we all need about the same amount and it's more than the official health guidelines suggest?
It does make you wonder if our bodies know what they are doing after all, and that a salt craving might actually be a signal that you need some more sodium. Perhaps our governments are telling us the wrong thing. Perhaps craving a massive pile of chips after a sweaty gym session might be the natural reaction. You can relax about it now.
Another theory is that salt speeds up sexual maturation in mammals, which means they have more children. Perhaps our liking for salt is due to evolution. A throwback to our ancestor's day, a bit like our adrenaline impulse and armpit hair.
Opinion is divided on whether guidelines should be changed, and our intake of salt revised. No expert, scientist or nutritionist will come out with a specific figure. Instead most folk 'in the know' are simply telling us to cut back on salt - but cut back how much? Come on experts, you earn more than me.
Perhaps salt should start an appeal. It's been accused of terrible things over the years, and maybe it wasn't quite as guilty as we thought. But before you rush out and buy a bag of salty chips with extra salt to celebrate, remember that anything taken in large quantities probably isn't going to be great for you.
If you are trying to lose weight and reduce your salt intake as part of that, make sure that you are following a healthy diet to do this. Our partner Medical health experts have written guides on the effects of Obesity and what exactly appetite suppressants are.